A Great Pitt Experience Often Begins with a Send-Off

(L-R) Judy Loe, Andrew Bialock, Barbara Conrad, and Joe Conrad wait for pizzas to come out of the wood-fired oven in the backyard of the Conrad’s San Diego home during a Pitt Send-Off

Heading off to college for the first time can be a daunting experience for students and parents, so every year, the Pitt Alumni Association helps to make the transition a little smoother with “Send-Off” events.

“We are just so inspired by seeing the talented, young people who are entering the Pitt Campus,” said Barbara Conrad (EDU G ’67) who, along with her husband John (EDU PhD ’70), hosts a Send-Off party at their home in San Diego. “It has been such a warm opportunity to connect with these young adults and their families along with the current students and alumni that also join us.”

This summer, hundreds of new students attended Send-Off events in 45 locations across the country. Parents are also invited and get the chance to build relationships that help to ease their anxiety.

“It’s interesting to see how, as the evening goes on, the new students and their parents relax and begin to feel like they are really part of the Pitt community,” said Barbara. “It’s a great start to their university experience.”

ncoming Pitt Freshman Brett Saunders (with his parents) shows off the certificate recognizing him as the recipient of the New Jersey Pitt Club scholarship
Incoming Pitt Freshman Brett Saunders (with his parents) shows off the certificate recognizing him as the recipient of the New Jersey Pitt Club scholarship

This was the fourth time the Conrads hosted what they call a PITT-zza party. (They have a wood-fired pizza oven in their backyard, which becomes the focal point of the gathering.) Barbara says it is just one more way they can give back to Pitt and “pay it forward” for all that Pitt has done for them. The couple also gives annually at the Chancellor’s Circle level, and John, who is a ceramics artist, recently donated a set of eight decorative platters to the Hillman Library.

Freshman Andrew Bialock and his mother Judy Loe were at the PITT-zza party. Andrew will study engineering. He said he chose Pitt on the strength of the Swanson School of Engineering and because he was drawn to Pitt’s mix of being a big school in a big city, while at the same time feeling like a close-knit community.

“The Pitt Send-Off gave me the opportunity to connect with people who have already completedor are in the midst of—the journey that I’m about to begin and allowed me to gather useful information about life on campus,” he said. “I’m ready to make the transition, and I’m excited to take advantage of all of the social and educational opportunities in the Panther community.”

On the other coast, the New Jersey Pitt Club hosted a Send-Off party at Duke Island Park in Bridgewater that Brett Saunders and his parents attended. Brett received the NJ Club’s scholarship this year.

“The Send-Off was a great way to meet students and alumni from my home state who share a common passion and excitement for Pitt,” said Brett who chose Pitt because of its close-knit campus community where students, faculty, and staff all support one another.

For those coming to Pitt from Erie, Pennsylvania, the trip to their first move-in day is a bit shorter but no less daunting. The Erie Club hosted a Send-Off event at a local restaurant that incoming freshman Emily Niedbala, a biological sciences major, attended.

Incoming freshmen Emily Niedbala (right) and Angelina Natalie prepared to launch their college careers at a Pitt Send-Off in Erie
Incoming freshmen Angelina Natalie (left) and Emily Niedbala (right) prepared to launch their college careers at a Pitt Send-Off in Erie

“The Pitt Send-Off was really helpful,” she said with a smile. “I learned a lot about my classes and teachers, marching band, and my dorm. I even met one of the RAs in my building.”

In years past, Pitt Send-Offs have been held at baseball games, social clubs, and, of course, at the many Primanti Bros. restaurants that have popped up in places like Florida and Michigan.

“The reach of the University is certainly expanding,” commented Barbara. “It is really gratifying to see that Pitt continues to shine—regionally, nationally, and internationally. It motivates us to want to do even more for our alma mater.”

Follow this link to read more stories from this issue of the Chancellor's Circle Update.